After a joyous and fattening Thanksgiving I have waddled back into the kitchen to confront the next round of holidays which are headed toward us at an alarming pace. Our neighbors seemed to have put up their Christmas lights while still gnawing on turkey legs. I have not been quite so swift, but I have purchased a pungent evergreen wreath from a local civic group, decorated it with sprigs of holly and some spangly gold star ribbon, and hung it on the front door. I have also moved the unsightly, out-of-season-overnight mums to the back yard where I will transplant them if the weather cooperates this weekend.
Looking at the calendar is sobering. Hanukkah starts on the twenty-second, and Christmas arrives just three days later. I’ve got to start thinking about the annual rite of cookie baking. It seems early to contemplate holiday baking – especially when I am still eating leftover Thanksgiving turkey for lunch every day. But there is no denying facts; in three weeks we will be wondering how the time flew by so fast.
I am thinking about the cookies I need to mail to our far-flung friends and family, and even more to take around to the neighbors, not to mention those for personal consumption. I like to send cookies that will evoke memories, like Proust’s madeleines. Just before Thanksgiving I sent my brother a box of home-baked gingersnaps, which remind us of our mother. Store-bought gingersnaps are never as poignant, or as crisp and deelish. He said he sat down, poured a big glass of cold milk, and immediately scarfed down three cookies. When was the last time that you ate three cookies without guilt? Childhood, when calories were never considered. And as long as Mom kept pulling sheets of warm cookies out of the oven on cold winter afternoons, we would continue eating gingersnaps. Not delicate little ladylike nibbles. Full-throated, passionate chomps of warm molasses-infused, sugar-crusted, pliant discs of deliciousness. Dinosaur-sized bites. Yumsters.
Baltimore has its own Proustian trigger: the Berger cookie. I have included links to several recipes and histories of the Berger cookie. You need to work out the size and heft and the proportions for yourself, but I don’t care for the bitsy Oreo-sized versions. I am baking English muffin-sized Bergers. They will be epic and Brobdingnagian. The ratio of chocolate frosting to the cake-like cookie will be impressive. These are cookies we ate when we were college students. When a whole row of Oreos could be consumed in one sitting. When we laughed at calories. It is the time of the year to revisit our misspent youth.
So it that spirit – use the heavy cream, and not sour cream. Eschew the corn syrup. Layer on the chocolate, accept your plangent wisps of nostalgia, and bake some new, giddy memories. (And do not cheat and buy Bergers from Amazon. You have to have some standards!)
Peppermint variation: https://www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/chocolate-peppermint-cookies/10391/
“I cannot go any further without mentioning my favourite biscuit of all time, now sadly, tragically, extinct. The oaty, crumbly, demerara notes of the long-forgotten Abbey Crunch will remain forever on my lips. I loved the biscuit as much as anything I have ever eaten, and often, in moments of solitude, I still think about its warm, buttery, sugary self.”
― Nigel Slater